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Every so often I attempt to read proactively for the Stoker Awards, so as to add things to the Recommended Reading List which contributes to the first ballot. It's not something I can manage every year, especially if I intend actually voting and am also doing the Hugos. I have never yet managed to nominate something in every category. With a month left to go, the following represents my personal picks in a whole six of the official categories, plus another few that I made up. I read a good deal more and may even have nominated more over the course of the year. But this is, above all, a list of things that are unashamedly to my own taste, which I am happy to recommend to you.

Novel

Nil Pray, Christian Read, Gestalt Publishing. My review is here.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire, Tor.com. In a simpler time, nice children would open wardrobes and go to Narnia. Conflicted, contemporary children end up in the Moors--my spiritual home. By the Stoker rules, this counts as a novel. It will count as a novella for the Hugos. Either way, it is brilliant. It's the second of a series (the first won a Hugo) but I went in cold with no problem.

Borne, Jeff Vandermeer, HarperCollins. A complete societal and environmental collapse is much more fun with genetic engineering and drugs! And bears. Please do not genetically engineer the bears.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, Theodora Goss, Saga Press. “And then the clever author looked at her thesis and said, “Goodness me! There are an awful lot of interesting female monsters in 19th century horror fiction that are killed as soon as they appear. What would happen if the poison girl, the panther woman and Justine Frankenstein survived?””

 

Long Fiction

Agents of Dreamland, Caitlin Kiernan, Tor.com. Oh, the prose, the luscious, fungal prose...

My English Name”, R. S. Benedict, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June. The world of this piece is an alienating phantasmagoria. Hint: it's this one.

 

Short Fiction

“We Are Turning on a Spindle”, Joanna Parypinski, Nightmare Magazine #61. Oh the prose, the luscious, gothicky prose...

“Furtherest”, Kaaron Warren, Dark Screams: Volume Seven, ed. Richard Chizmar & Brian Freeman, Hydra. A small masterpiece of atmosphere and poisoned memories.

“Sweetlings”, Lucy Taylor, Tor.com. Come, let us dine. The first course is trilobite...

“Laying the Hairy Book”, Joshua Reynolds, Weirdbook Annual #1: Witches, Wildside Press. Robust, folksy perfection.

 

Poetry

Diary of a Sorceress, Ashley Dioses, Hippocampus Press. My review is here.

Visions of the Mutant Rainforest, Robert Frazier and Bruce Boston, Crystal Lake Publishing. The long-awaited collection of poems and vignettes charting how their mutual creation transforms humanity and claims the world.

 

Non-Fiction

Paperbacks From Hell, Grady Hendrix, Quirk Books. This is not just an art book that deserves to be shelved next to Haining's A Pictorial History of Horror Stories, it is an excellent work of cultural history. And funny. Really, really, funny.

The Body Horror Book, ed. Claire Fitzpatrick, Oscillate Wildly Press. Once again, my review is here.

 

Scripts

The Stokers lump film and television together. Please note that this award goes to the script writer rather than the director.

The Endless, Justin Benson, Snowfort Pictures, et al. AIEEEEEEEEEEEe that's some great cinematographYEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Get Out! Jordan Peele, Blumhouse Productions. This is how you do it, people, razor-sharp and stylish. Also, possibly the best improvised weapon ever.

“Trick or Treat, Freak”, Chapter Two: Season 2, Stranger Things. Paul Dichter, Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Jessie Nickson Lopez & Kate Trefy. Netflix Studios, et al. And here's my conflicted childhood. Did I mention the Moors?

“Got A Light?” Episode 8, Twin Peaks: the Return, Mark Frost & David Lynch, Showtime Networks, et al. Yeah, that one.


Best Title

Is shared by “Laying The Hairy Book” and “Shoggoths in Traffic”, Tobias S. Bucknell, Lightspeed #88.

 

Worst Pun

“No Holds Bard”, Adrian Cole, Weirdbook Annual #1: Witches, Wildside Press.

 

Things I Would Have Loved To Nominate But Couldn't

… because it should have been last year.

“Eyes I Dare Not Meet In Dreams”, Sunny Moraine, Tor.com. Beautiful dead girls start climbing out of refrigerators the world over, and amongst other things, stalk Joss Whedon.

The Love Witch, Anna Biller, Anna Biller Productions, et al. Have you freaking seen this?

 

A Couple of Individual Poems I Really Liked

Yes, I should join the Science Fiction Poetry Association, but I fear the addition of the Rhysling Awards would drive me mad.

“Pomegranates and Ashes”, Gerri Leen, Eternal Haunted Summer, Summer Solstice issue.

“Mistress of the Dark Fortress”, Leigh Blackmore & K. A. Opperman, Spectral Realms #6, Hippocampus Press.

“Cthulhu Listens To The Beach Boys”, Kate Lechler, Liminality #13.

 

And that's it! As always, I am happy to enter into discussion of cool stuff, though it will have to be quick! The field of things that deserve to be read is effectively infinite: we can only do what we can.

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by Christian Read, Gestalt Publishing, 2017

a review by Kyla Lee Ward



Nil-Pray,
"No Skin Land" (poor Aingelish translation).

The Great War began when an Archduke was assassinated by a minor death cultist. What gave the Aingelish the advantage that eventually saw them the victors was their embrace of Science--only the hopelessly parochial call it magic any more. But it is now 1925 and the consequences of creating werewolfen and binding asuras are starting to come home. Destruction on such an unprecedented scale has caught the attention of the Mortis Kings of Nil-Pray and for the first time, the ancient city of the Dead has accepted a Quick ambassador.

Richly inventive and wickedly cynical, this is a City narrative of sublime effect. As the young necromancer, Edmund Carver, and Shen, his suspiciously efficient batman, negotiate the Coriaceous Way through layer after layer of plots, assassins, bizarre rituals and downright disturbing architecture, they are forced to interrogate their own convictions, alongside the universals of power, difference and hatred.

"Nil Pray was a peculiar place to hate in. It was a refuge where the Dead found a queer felicity but, for all that, often kept habitudes from their Quick days. It was harder to hate for race when most skins had faded to leather brown or illness grey. Harder still when the skin had faded to muscle and bone. Often, gender was equally flimsy a foundation for bias, Breasts sagged to nothing. Penises rotted. Scrotums burst…. There was one simple divide immediate to all. The Carnal remained embodied and incarnate and the Spectral did not."

It is difficult for either kind to damage the other. But Lord Stricken of the Carnal and the Geistenrex of the Spectral have not only remembered war, they have discovered technology..

To read the full review, please go here.

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